Childhood cancers are curable if treated early, say experts

International Childhood Cancer Month is celebrated every September to raise awareness and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, survivors and their families

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According to a report by World Health Organization (WHO) with access to quality care, more than 80% of children with cancer can survive, living full and healthy lives. However, many children in low-income and middle income countries do not receive or complete care, and, as a result, over 90% of childhood cancer deaths occur in low resource settings.

The days is also celebrated across the globe to raise awareness, improve access, better understand why and where children are diagnosed with cancer through cancer registries, and offer the best possible treatment, palliative care and support for children and their families.

Dr Shailesh Kanwinde, paediatric oncologist from Pune, said, “Most childhood cancer initially presents with non-specific signs and symptoms, which may lead to late detection. In high-income countries, approximately 80% of children with cancer survive five years or more after the diagnosis of cancer.”

“To date only a few definite risk factors for childhood cancer have been identified. These include ionising radiation and ingestion of the hormone diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy (a treatment no longer in use). Genetic mutations are also one of the causes of childhood cancer,” he added.

The Indian Cancer Society mentions that although cancer in children is rare, it is an important cause of death by disease after infancy among children. In India, it is estimated that about 50,000 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer each year.

Dr Minish Jain, an Oncologist from Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, said, “Childhood cancer is curable if diagnosed and treated early. It is not usually inherited through genes. Although the actual number of children who develop cancer is small, the cure rate is high and the total number of productive life years saved by curing these children is significantly high and therefore the effort in treating them appropriately is all the more worthwhile and fulfilling.”